Johnathan Thurston has led his North Queensland Cowboys to their first ever Premiership – the halfback kicking a field goal in extra time amid immense pressure to seal victory in what could rank as one of the most exciting Grand Finals in history.
A Clive Churchill Medal winning performance from Thurston saw him overcome missing an 80th minute conversion attempt to seal the match, only to do just that mere minutes later in golden-point extra-time.
The victory signals the very first time that Wayne Bennett’s Brisbane Broncos have been defeated in a Premiership decider.
Corey Parker opened the scoring when the Broncos took the opportunity to kick a penalty goal in what was deemed an unusual decision by commentators given the 41 metre distance. Parker made no mistake.
It wouldn’t take long for the Broncos’ decision to take the points was vindicated – the Broncos rushing 90 metres from the kick-off thanks to some brilliant second=phase play from Adam Blair and Anthony Milford, who set up Corey Oates for a try. Parker converted to make it 8-0 after just a few minutes.
The enthralling opening continued when a Broncos mistake from the nest set saw the Cowboys score from the scrum-base – Granville passing on to Justin O’Neill to slide in next to the posts. Thurston converted to make it a confidence-boosting 8-6.
The Cowboys hit the front after 25 minutes when Granville spun a pass to James Tamou within a metre of the line – Tamou spinning before planting the ball over the line. Thurston converted to make it a four-point ball-game at 12-8.
Brisbane would be next to score courtesy of the unlikeliest of mistakes from Thurston – Corey Norman the man to race over following the mistake. The video referee was consulted, with replays making a case for a strip on Thurston, however the try would stand to give the Broncos a 14-12 lead going into the break.
Just two minutes into the second half, Brisbane took first points when they opted to take a shot at goal on the back of a penalty. Kahu slotted the goal to extend the lead to 16-12.
A true arm-wrestle ensued, with both teams searching desperately to find the points that would put the ball-game away.
The Cowboys missed two opportunities to post tries, with a Thurston ball to Kane Linnett going to ground on both occasions.
With three minutes remaining, the Cowboys were on the back foot and in desperate need of something to get them out of their own half. Salvation would come, albeit in ugly circumstance, as Kane Linnett was picked up and dumped on his head.
North Queensland kicked up-field and managed an attacking set that would ultimately prove fruitless. But with the game seemingly gone, the Cowboys conjured a try out of nothing when Kyle Feldt tip-toed down the touch-line to score amid euphoric scenes at ANZ Stadium to make it 16 all.
The try would set up perhaps the highest pressure kick in the modern game for Thurston.
The halfback took an age to set the kick up before striking it low and hard in a kick that would ultimately hit the posts, sending the game into extra time.
The Cowboys kicked off, and incredibly, Ben Hunt dropped the ball cold to set up a scrum virtually right in front of the sticks. Three plays later, Johnathan Thurston set up a long-range drop-goal to seal the Premiership and sink Brisbane for the very first time in a Grand Final.
Cowboys 17 (Justin O’Neill, James Tamou, Kyle Feldt, tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals; Johnathan Thurston 1 field goal)
Broncos 16 (Corey Oates, Corey Norman tries; Corey Parker 2, Jordan Kahu 2 goals)